National Federation of Young Farmers' Clubs

Fun, Learning, and Achievement

07 July 2015

Do not learn farm safety by accident – this is the theme of the third annual Farm Safety Week supported by NFYFC and the Farm Safety Foundation. From falls and transport to child safety – Farm Safety Week takes place from 6-10 July and offers five days of themed practical advice and guidance for farmers and coincides with the Livestock Event at Birmingham NEC.

According to Alan Plom, Chair FSP Machinery Group: “Taking precautions to ensure the safety of you and your workforce can save lives and help prevent serious injury. Much of farm work is carried out using heavy machinery and equipment and it is imperative that farmers put the safety of themselves and their employees first. Over the last 10 years, six people have been killed by contact with the moving parts of equipment or machinery – eight per cent of all fatalities.”

After losing his foot in a harvesting accident, self employed farmer Dave Allen of Cornwall is keen to highlight the harsh reality of learning safety by accident.

A third generation farmer, Dave shared his story which began in 2008 a poor year for harvesting. Wet weather had restricted work but finally the climate had changed and now that it was drier and brighter, Dave was able to resume harvesting the wheat down in Cornwall.

On this occasion Dave was working alone when a little of the grain got stuck in the tank of the combine harvester, and Dave did what he, his father, grandfather and others had done for the last 30 years and got into the tank to release it by kicking it to make it move. However, Dave’s decision to rectify the situation as quickly as possible would lead to horrific consequences.

Dave explained what happened next: "Rather than using the ladder to enter the tank, which would then stop all the mechanisms, I decided to go in over the top – which meant the mechanisms were still fully operational."

"The machinery got hold of my boot so I tried to pull my foot out of it. I managed to release my leg but realised that something was seriously wrong. I was wearing a boiler suit and couldn’t see the bottom of my leg – but I knew from the weight that my foot was gone. I also knew that it was only a matter of moments before my boiler suit was going to get caught and then that would be it. I knew I had to get out of the grain tank or I wasn’t going to survive," he recalls.

Fully conscious, Dave managed to haul himself out of the tank onto the cab roof of the combine harvester, climbed down into the cab where his phone was and rang the contractor he was working for to get him an ambulance.

After spending a month in hospital and a month with family learning to move around with crutches, Dave then had the painful process of learning to walk again, months of physiotherapy and adapting to a prosthesis. Even after everything he endured Dave considers himself one of the lucky ones…

"I have been so lucky. I’ve had a good support system around me and the contractor I was working for continued paying me so there was no hardship financially. Not everyone is that blessed. It was five months before I was able to return to work and life could have been much worse than it turned out to be."

"I’d never broken a bone in my body before that day," he says, "Everybody in farming knows somebody who has been injured or killed in an accident. My advice to others is quite simple: do not do what I did. Just really think and realise that these safety devices are there for a reason and do not over-ride them. One day it could be you. Don’t think it only happens to others. I’m proof that isn’t the case."

James added: “This Farm Safety Week we are echoing Dave’s call not to learn safety by accident. PTO shafts are dangerous and can rip off a limb or kill in seconds. Make sure they are fitted with proper guards that are correctly used and maintained. A properly guarded PTO shaft prevents life changing injuries and even death. Always take your time to think about what you are doing and what might go wrong as making a few simple checks could actually save a life – maybe your own!


06 July 2015

Today marks the start of the third annual Farm Safety Week, an initiative launched in 2013 aiming to cut the toll of accidents which continue to give agriculture the poorest record of any occupation in the UK & Ireland. This year’s Farm Safety Week is being supported by a greater number of organisations than ever including the NFYFC and the Farm Safety Foundation.

From falls and transport to child safety – Farm Safety Week (6-10 July) offers five days of themed practical advice and guidance for farmers and comes just after the HSE released the annual workplace fatality statistics for Great Britain in 2014/15.  In 2014/15, 33 fatal injuries to agricultural workers were recorded – a rate 9.12 deaths per 100,000 workers, the same as the average of 33 deaths in the past five years and, unfortunately, an increase from the 27 deaths recorded in 2013/14.  

According to Rick Brunt, HSE: “While our farmers are among the best in the world, farming continues to have one of the poorest records of any occupation in the UK and Ireland and while all farm accidents are shocking and dreadfully sad, the saddest thing is that they can often be prevented

“A fall can lead to long term injuries and make it difficult to keep on farming. Most Falls from Height accidents occur either because the work is not properly planned, the risks are not recognised, proper precautions are not taken, or the equipment used is either defective, not appropriate, or used incorrectly. Often people about to undertake a job believe it will ‘only take a few minutes’, and take a risk in the hope that simply being very careful will be enough.”

Even the most safety conscious farmers can experience the effects of a serious injury. In a recent case, a young Yorkshire farmer was carrying out routine maintenance on a length of guttering on the family farm when he fell eighteen feet through a roof light onto the concrete floor below him.  Twenty year old Peter Rooke was in great pain as he had broken the femur in his left leg. He was airlifted to hospital where surgeons pinned the leg with a steel rod but he was unable to return to work for eight weeks.

His father Mark was working with him on the roof. “It is a job I have done for the past 30 years and whenever I was working on the roof there was a farm worker below so I was not alone…The gutter cleaning is an annual job which we have to do to ensure that there is no water leakage when grain is stored in the building below.

“It was a fine day but heavy rain was threatened so there was some pressure to get the job done before the weather changed… I told Peter about the dangers before we went up there together and to be very careful.

“We had only been working up there for about ten minutes when the incident occurred. Peter had stepped backwards from the safety boards onto the (fragile) roof light which gave way and crashed straight through to the floor below. He cannot explain how or why he had stepped backwards and it must have been a lapse in concentration.”

Since the incident Mark has had a safety harness and a back rail fitted to the roof so that anyone working at height there is securely held.

This case reinforces that fact that farm workers of any age run the risk of injury or death from falls. Working at height is an ever-present danger on farms.

Rick added: “Working at height is a frequent danger on farms. A fall is one of the most common causes of death and serious injury and farmers and farm workers of all ages run the risk of injury or death from falls from height.  It is vital that the farming community take the time to think about what they are doing and what might go wrong. Don’t learn safety by accident!”



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